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Planning for quality urban spaces

Many of the transport solutions we develop impact the spaces in which New Zealanders live, work and play. As we develop our transport networks, we’re working to ensure they follow quality urban design principles, taking into account where they are built, the purposes they fulfil and the user experience. 

What is urban design?

Urban design is design that seeks to create desirable places for people to live, work and play. It involves the design and placement of buildings, roads, rail, open spaces, towns and cities. It focuses on the relationship between built form, land use and open space, natural features and human activity. Good urban design creates spaces that function well, have a distinctive identity and visual appeal.

Our commitment to quality urban design

We recognise that our activities impact the living environments of New Zealanders. As a signatory to the New Zealand Urban Design Protocol(external link), we're committed to planning for, developing and promoting quality urban design.

Read the New Zealand Urban Design Protocol(external link)

Our challenge is to incorporate this commitment into all aspects of our business. For us this means ensuring:

  • transport networks fit in sensitively with the landform and the built, natural and community environments through which they pass
  • all systems of movement along and across the transport corridor are integrated into the design of projects with good connections and access to communities
  • design contributes to the quality of public space and the road-user experience. 

Urban design and state highways

Urban design applies to all areas of the state highway network and is a multi-disciplinary approach to improve the quality of life for communities. Urban design, as it applies to state highway infrastructure in urban and rural settings, responds to the natural and built environment. It concerns the design of state highways in response to place and their contribution to the physical form, functioning and visual quality of the regions through which they pass and serve.

Bridging the gap: Transport Agency urban design guidelines 2013

Bridging the gap presents the Transport Agency's urban design objectives and requirements. It set out 10 fundamental urban design principles which should guide the development of transport projects and contains best practice on detailed design aspects.

The guidelines seek to improve the understanding of what good urban design means in a transport project. The guidelines are intended for consultants, contractors, project managers, stakeholders and the community who participate in the planning, design, construction and maintenance of our transport networks. They are also intended for other Transport Agency staff whose work and actions affect urban design outcomes.

Read Bridging the gap: Transport Agency urban design guidelines

Landscape guidelines 2014 (final draft)

Landscape guidelines (final draft) September 2014 replaces the Transport Agency's Guidelines for highway landscaping 2006. The guidelines recognise the important contribution landscape thinking, landscape planting, landscape design, implementation and management provides in the delivery of quality infrastructure. The guideline outlines the key considerations and critical steps to be followed when assessing, designing, constructing and maintaining state highway landscape assets. The document demonstrates the Transport Agency's commitment to landscape outcomes, and our concerns for the environment and communities.

P39 Standard specification for highway landscape treatments 2013

To achieve consistency and quality in the delivery of highway landscape treatments, the NZ Transport Agency's P39 Standard specification for highway landscape treatments sets out the minimum standards for all highway landscape projects. The baseline landscape specification sets the required performance standards, quality and workmanship for highway landscape treatments which are generally part of all highway projects.

Read the NZ Transport Agency's P39 Standard specification for highway landscape treatments

Find out more

Urban and landscape design frameworks 

The purpose of an urban and landscape design frameworks (ULDF) is to illustrate guiding landscape and urban design principles for a project, together with proposed concept design responses. A ULDF sets out an overall urban design vision for both the project and its integration with wider aspirations and plans in surrounding areas, including wider land use and development. In this regard, a ULDF reflects a wider strategic direction and long-term urban and landscape design vision than just the immediate project. Aspects of that design vision may be delivered in the future by others or in partnership with the Transport Agency.

Following are a selection of ULDF's developed by the Transport Agency.

Urban Design Register

To assist Transport Agency project managers, a register of experienced consultants has been identified by the Transport Agency Urban Design Team. The Urban Design Register includes various specialist professionals such as urban designers, landscape architects, architects and artists. See our state highway register of urban design professionals.

If you are interested in being on the Urban Design Register please contact

Acoustics website

For information, suppliers and tools on noise barrier design, refer to our acoustics website(external link). The acoustics website provides a range of information and tools to help ensure that transport noise is managed in an effective and efficient manner.


A report by Jude Wilson and Simon Swaffield presents the results of a field investigation into the environmental values and landscape preferences of key stakeholders in relation to the management of the roadside corridor of the state highway system, focusing on the West Coast of the South Island.

Read Environmental values of the state highway corridor: a west coast case study survey of stakeholders(external link)

Contact us

Email us at to register to receive email notification of environmental updates, or for more information.